Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

There Is No Going Back

I am currently writing stories for a collection, and a line popped out at me last night while revising, in which one of the characters insists on living in the present:
He only cared about the present, “Because that’s all we have. You have to face the facts: it is too late. We are in the next thousand years already.There is no going back.”
While a mere calendar date (calendars are a science and a metafictional and metahistorical world in their own right) actually does not reflect anything other than how we count time, the Information and Technological Revolutions are real. And they just happened to overlap with a significant transition in the Gregorian calendar. The massive transformation of technology is making the turn of the Millennium significant; it is even making secular eschatologies, like Y2K or 2012, real.

I've written a lot on this blog about moral vacuums, aporia, and the Millennial collapse of values. But what is around the corner? Where are we going? What will replace the values and norms that are dying? Sub-cultures everywhere are channeling change and some are pointing toward a presumed future. See below the jump for a few examples.

The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Image Source: Scrapiteria.

Astrology's Motto for the Next Seven Years: Rogue Selfishness

The Internet has only been mainstream for about 15 years.  Yet it hit global cultures with the force of a tsunami.  Astrologers explain the impact of the Internet in terms of the presence of Uranus in Pisces.  Uranus is the ruling planet of Aquarius, the philanthropist, inventor and unconventional maverick of the Zodiac.  Pisces rules mysticism and inner worlds.  Astrologers claim that from 2003 to March 2011, Uranus was in Pisces, and the full force of Aquarian innovation collided with Piscean virtual realites. 

Metaphorically speaking, the first decade of the new Millennium might be viewed as a planetary taste of what is to come, almost the start of a period of overlap between the dying Age of Pisces and the coming Age of Aquarius.  The first Millennial decade was characterized by a dissolution of the boundaries between new technology and the psyche. The technology comes from Aquarius and its ruling planet Uranus - the dreamy confusion comes from Pisces. Integral Astrology:
Let’s start by reviewing the time Uranus was in Pisces, from 2003 to early 2011. Pisces is the sign of sacrifice, of martyrdom, and of spirituality in the largest sense. It is a mystical sign. 

Uranus in Pisces brought social issues of all kinds to the forefront of our attention. As Neptune was in Aquarius from late 1998 until 2011, these two outer planets were in each other’s home signs for a number of years (Neptune rules Pisces and Uranus rules Aquarius, so it was what astrologers call “mutual reception”). The twin themes of Pisces/Neptune and Uranus/Aquarius have combined the dreamy and beyond-the-limits energy of Pisces with the technology of Aquarius. The growth of the internet is probably the most obvious blending of these two forces, as the very boundaries between us have evaporated with this new technology.

Most recently, health care reform in the United States was a Uranus-in-Pisces issue. The dark economic picture is often associated with Pluto in Capricorn (and properly so) but Enron and many other harbingers of coming disaster can be associated with Uranus going through Pisces (rolling blackouts, and other signs of “lost energy” are very Piscean). Likewise, the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 was both Plutonian and Piscean (Pisces is the seas, after all). The push for alternative energy sources is quite Piscean, although all of these events reflect the cognate of Uranus in Pisces, Neptune in Aquarius.

The dark side of this Uranian/Piscean energy was seen in the Second Intifada, which peaked in 2003-2004 (the “martyrdom” of suicide bombers - including the 9/11 hijackers - reflects both Pisces and Neptune). Pisces is also prisons and houses of confinement, and the Abu Graib horror is another Uranus-in-Pisces story. Note the “explosive” nature of all these stories, and the inability to contain either bombers or news stories. Wikileaks is a very Uranus-in-Pisces story.

Another dark side of Pisces is hopelessness. Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac, and Uranus has spent the last year in the latter degrees of the sign. It is a time of endings, and although endings are followed by a rebirth, they are endings nonetheless. The simplest way to summarize this energy is to say that we know things are changing, that the way we do things is coming to an end, but we don’t know what is to come in the future. It is four o’clock in the morning, and we aren’t sure what the new day will be like, or even if it is coming.

That’s the Doomsday energy we hear so much about. It isn’t necessarily related to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, but to the last degrees of Pisces. Yet the very fact that we have come to set so much by the calendar of a departed civilization says more in itself than most of the scenarios for the future.
Since March [2011], Uranus has moved into the sign of Aries, a planetary movement which astrologers claim has caused further big upheavals.  We still have the technology, but Pisces' virtual dreaminess is gone.  Instead we have the innovation and tech - but now under the influence of Aries, which means: "competitive, enthusiastic, courageous, strong, and dynamic. Every sign has its excesses, and for Aries, we can become, at times, too impatient, boastful, brash, willful, insensitive, or impetuous."

The keywords for the next seven years, according to Integral Astrology, are rogue selfishness.  Growing selfishness will strain relationships - a similar aspect prevailed in the late 1970s, when divorce rates climbed.  Our ideals will collapse, including our idealized visions of perfect relationships - but sometimes that can be a good thing as we get a dose of reality: "There is a big difference between not getting what you want and not getting what you always thought you wanted."

Other aspects of the current Uranus-in-Aries seven-year adventure we are in for, according to astrologers, include the rise of movements previously considered beyond the pale.  Some of this will be positive, such as new norms and inventions, some will be negative.  You can read Susan Miller's discussion on Uranus in Aries and her related predictions for the next seven years for all the zodiac signs, here:
Uranus is called "the great awakener" because this planet is known to bring lightning-quick flashes of insight along with very rapid change. This is the planet of rebellion and also the ruler of all things quirky, idiosyncratic, and just plain unreal. People with strong Uranus in their natal charts are pathfinders, courageously venturing into new realms. They often do the exact opposite of what everyone tells them to do. ... This planet is known to sweep away anything that it deems outdated, outworn, and of no future value and then will help you build something better and more relevant.
Uranus teaches us to challenge society's status quo rather than blindly accept what we are told. Uranus is at least 50 years ahead of its time and points the way to where we, collectively (as a society), are headed. Uranus also teaches to "let you be you" because to this planet, individuality is to be prized. This message will be underscored even more now that Uranus will be occupying Aries, a sign known to want to leave their fingerprints on all they touch. Having Aries as the new home for Uranus will spawn a whole generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.
Uranus in Aries will also encourage us all to question society's generally accepted "truths" and, at times, to challenge authority itself. Rather than accept those teachings as unquestionable, we need to ask why we so blindly accept them - and maybe turn some of these myths on their heads. With Uranus in Aries - the sign that rules the face and hair in particular - you will see individual differences celebrated, not scorned. Uranus in Aries will rejoice in all that is unique and memorable, so watch for a new standard of beauty to emerge.
Uranus is associated with upheaval, shock, and rebellion, which can sound scary (and often is) but is also associated with progress, independence, and innovation. Just when we become too complacent or settle comfortably in a rut, Uranus comes by to shake us up. Afterward, we feel more alert and alive, and soon we become excited about the new options that will be emerging. Changes will come in two ways - the kind you initiate and the kind that are foisted on you. Uranus teaches that there is value in both, and that through change we learn to adapt, become flexible, and resourceful to reinvent ourselves from time to time.
Monopoly money © 1935, 2007 Hasbro.

The last time Uranus in Aries was 1927-1935, when amazing innovations accompanied the Great Depression and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.  This is Miller's timeline for a previous Uranus-in-Aries period:
A Timeline of Uranus In Aries 1927-1935

... Keep in mind: Jupiter was in Aries too in 1927, as it is now in the first five months of 2011. Aries rules pioneering, competition, force, bravery, brashness, courage, adventure, being a pathfinder, business enterprise, discovery, and also rules the face, hair, and individuality. [Like I said: Beards are going to come back in.]

1927: Charles Lindberg becomes the first solo person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
1927: First transatlantic telephone call occurs from New York City to London.
1927: It takes 32 hours to fly from New York to San Francisco.
1927: A diamond rush in South Africa includes trained athletes hired by several major firms to stake claims. (Aries rules athletes AND pioneering.)
1927: First sports commentary on the BBC radio by Teddy Wakelam occurs. (Aries rules sports and competition.)
1927: First part-talking feature movie released, The Jazz Singer.
1928 First full, all-talking feature, Lights of New York, released.
1928 Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin.
1928: The Aschheim-Zondek urine pregnancy test is developed.
1929: The Great Stock Market Crash, the most dramatic and serious in the history of the United States occurred in October of this year, beginning a 10-year economic depression, affecting all Western countries.
1929: St. Valentine's Day gangland massacre in Chicago. Aries rules force and weapons.
1929: German psychiatrist Hans Berger develops the electroencephalogram (EEG) for recording brain waves. (Aries rules the head.)
1929: US Admiral Byrd, along with Floyd Bennett, Captain Ashley McKinley. and Harold June become the first to fly over the South Pole. (Now that is an adventure!)
1929: First public demo of color TV by E. Ives and Bell Labs in NY. Same year, Vladimir Zworkin had taken a first color patent for the TV set.
1929: Edwin Hubble, an American astronomer, proves that the Milky Way is not the only galaxy in the universe.
1929: Albert Einstein announces a new theory relating gravity and electromagnetism.
1929: Graf Zeppelin takes off from New Jersey on around-the-world flight and finishes it successfully in New Jersey.
1930: First diesel engine auto trip is completed from Indianapolis, Indiana to New York City.
1930: 3M markets Scotch Tape.
1930: Pluto is discovered in space.
1930: The then-tallest building, the Empire State Building. is completed.
1930: Frozen food (processed by Clarence Birdseye) hits commercial market for the first time.
1930: Visionary plans submitted for Rockefeller Center, New York.
1930: Edison tests 1st US electric passenger train between Hoboken and Montclair, NJ.
1930: Karl Landsteiner wins Nobel Prize for Medicine for identifying A, B, AB positive, and O blood types.
1931: The rise of the Nazi Party.
1931: General Motors's Frigidaire makes refrigerators safe for household use.
1931: Gangster Al Capone sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion (freed in 1939; dies in 1947).
1931: Thomas Edison submitted his last patent application.
1932: April 14: John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton split the atom's nucleus.
1932: Chemist C.C. King isolates vitamin C.
1933: Marconi announces discovery of microwaves.
1933: Edwin Armstrong devises frequency modulations (FM) that permit radio reception without static. ...
1933: Construction of Golden Gate Bridge begins in San Francisco.
1933: King Kong released.
1933: Nylon first produced by Dr. Wallace H. Carothers, a research chemist at DuPont.
1933: Great Depression: The US begins to enact FDR's New Deal.
1933: Adolph Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany.
1934: Hitler becomes Führer when chancellorship and presidency are united.
1934: First Purple Heart awarded for bravery.
1934: Dust Bowl Storm, a strong 2-day massive storm, creates chaos in the Great Plains, in one of the worst storms ever in this region. The storm is to ruin 100 million acres and does damage another 200 million acres of cropland in Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma ("Dust Bowl"). (Aries is arid and dry and rules the desert; Uranus brings unexpected events).
1935: Amelia Earhart becomes the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California.
While it is true that any timeline in the modern period would look equally 'full of interesting facts,' skeptics of astrology might consider these interpretations as cultural phenomena in and of themselves. It is a current trend to perceive a current repetition of the past, to believe we have returned and come full circle to the period leading up to the Second World War. 

Image from the riots in Tottenham, August 2011.  Image Source: No Fear of the Future.

Meanwhile in the UK: Fatherless Feral Youths with Blackberries

Guido reported on fatherless feral youths with Blackberries (here), pinpointing the cause of the riots to a collapse of values.  He used a conservative argument to blame the Social Welfare state and single mothers (the red font is his emphasis):
Yesterday Guido tweeted that he “Would bet that the majority of the homes of those looting youths are fatherless”. Andrew Neil chimed in pointing out that “Surveys suggest that in areas like Tottenham as many as 80% families have absent/no fathers. Similar to worst ghettoes in US… Pointing out most underclass families are fatherless [is] different from blaming single mothers”. The progressive twittersphere went spare, as if this observation was somehow controversial. 

It is self-evident that the welfare state has fundamentally undermined the family, enabling and actually encouraging fatherless families to become commonplace. This is a social disaster. Welfare incentives are powerful nudges in a negative direction. Downing Street wonks should understand that “nudge theory” works two ways, not always in a positive direction.

The scale of the problem is immense, in a generation since the sixties the percentage of births outside marriage has risen from 5% to 40%. Some of those are in co-habiting couples – which unfortunately are more fragile than traditional marriages – however the majority are brought up in fatherless households. A Civitas study found that children living without their biological fathers are more likely to get into trouble at school, to have adjustment problems and eventually go to jail. Iain Duncan Smith can’t solve deep social problems with welfare reform alone. Society needs to reverse decades of failed “progressive” thinking about the family and social norms.
On the BBC, there was a lot of hand-wringing and on-the-one-handing and on-the-other-handing, followed by finger-pointing at several causes, especially the Conservative government's cuts. The former police chief of Los Angeles, William Bratton, has been invited to London to consult on gang culture. British commentators did not consider that the island's infamous class system might have something to do with the new activity of Riot Shopping.

Bosse's wonderful frontispiece to Leviathan (1651). Image Source: Wiki.

The blog No Fear of the Future has a great post entitled, "In the Panopticon, No One Can Hear You Reboot."  This must be the one post in the entire blogosphere right now where 'reboot' does not refer to the DCnU.  Anyway, the post deals with how London's street riots are a sign of Millennial aporia and necessitate the writing of a new Social Contract as a giant Operating System - an idea that made me think "Eeek!" and "Amazing!" at the same time.  Here's his comment, with great Leviathan references (you can read Hobbes's Leviathan for free online here):
What would Hobbes do with the revolutions of today's world against the order established by our twentieth century sovereigns? The events of this year thus far have me thinking a lot about whether the current moment of Network Culture represents the base state of a newer nature: the realm of our Network selves, the chaotic new frontier that has not yet been subjugated to the order and dominion of the State, whose initially unbounded freedom we love and seem to be actively (if not quite consciously) importing into the institutional and socio-political fabric of consensus reality. Bruce Sterling captured the emerging situation pretty well in his February 2010 talk on "Atemporality for the Creative Artist," grimly diagnosing the not-yet-evenly-distributed disharmony of a coming decade of Gothic High Tech as the old institutions collapse before their replacements have emerged ... .

Think about the Gothic High Tech through the prism of Abraham Bosse's frontispiece from Leviathan ... with Hobbes's idea of the 17th century sovereign comprised of the people. Now watch the headless Multitudes that represent the new popular movements of 2011, like the creatures from deep fathoms just beginning to swim around near the surface. Isn't the Network itself looking like the real 21st century sovereign? It's starting to feel like the indigenous peoples of Network Culture (we) are on the verge of a very rare opportunity and responsibility: to rewrite their own social contracts from scratch. Which sounds very cool, but also very scary and disruptive ... .
And speaking of spontaneously rewriting social contracts from scratch, riots also began to appear in America this summer.

Violent Flash Mob Teens

Once upon a time not so long ago (like, last Christmas), flash mobs were warm fuzzy Millennial surprises - a gift from the networked world, where people would spontaneously gather, dance, sing or do silly, funny things like have pillow fights in public places. Flash mobs were a new message that we were still connected to one another in old ways, still human in old ways. But sadly, Gift in German means poison, and the flip side to the flash mob erupted this summer, when groups of teenagers in the United States began suddenly converging on businesses like convenience stores and committing crimes, propelled by social media networks. You can see related videos here, here and here.

There was a report on CNN about this problem, and it immediately made me think of Dark Knight Returns (1986).  When I first saw Frank Miller's vision of Gotham City's adolescent gangs in a vicious, terrifying future, that was exactly how I imagined them.

The Girlfriend Experience, or, Student Loan? What Student Loan?

The oldest profession has been getting an overhaul. A CNBC documentary reported on high end prostitutes, many of whom are students paying their way through college. The highest level of sex trade among high end prostitutes is the so-called 'Girlfriend Experience,' or GFE, where the prostitute acts like the guy's girlfriend and gives him emotional intimacy.  The girls get paid USD $40,000 for spending one week with a man who can afford this fee to have the woman have sex with him; but the priority is just keeping him company in a nice, comfortable way.  This is a strictly-business, non-romantic version of Pretty Woman. The men are mainly lawyers, doctors, businessmen - and the girls say that they had never been treated so well by their actual boyfriends.  Whatever the hassles of real commitment, I don't quite get why some men would spend $40,000 to spend a week with a fake girlfriend when they can just get a real girlfriend. Maybe real girlfriends are more expensive in the long term - and they don't leave after seven days.


BBC recently reported on Somethingism - a movement in Dutch Protestant churches, where 1 in 6 clergy are either atheists or agnostics, but they mysteriously continue to hold quasi-Christian services:
The Rev Klaas Hendrikse can offer his congregation little hope of life after death, and he's not the sort of man to sugar the pill. ... An imposing figure in black robes and white clerical collar, Mr Hendrikse presides over the Sunday service at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland.

It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord's Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse's sermon seems bleak - "Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get".

"Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death," Mr Hendrikse says. "No, for me our life, our task, is before death."

Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing. "God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience. When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen. God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."

Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible's account of Jesus's life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.

His book Believing in a Non-Existent God led to calls from more traditionalist Christians for him to be removed. However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out.

A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the PKN and six other smaller denominations was either agnostic or atheist.

Klaas Hendrikse: "You don't have to believe that Jesus was physically resurrected" The Rev Kirsten Slettenaar, Exodus Church's regular priest, also rejects the idea - widely considered central to Christianity - that Jesus was divine as well as human.

"I think 'Son of God' is a kind of title," she says. "I don't think he was a god or a half god. I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found inside himself."
Christian mouthpieces like the Christian Telegraph view this with alarm, as do their Protestant counterparts in the Netherlands. New rituals are popping up in these agnostic/atheist services, such as having parishoners count thousands of grains of rice on the floor, or writing down the words for terrible things (war, cancer) and throwing them in a garbage can.

The Zeitgeist Movement

Video Source: Youtube.

The Zeitgeist Movement, which deals with the future of humanity, was founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph. It began when Joseph made two Internet films, Zeitgeist: The Movie (2007) and Zeitgeist: Addendum (2008). On March 17, 2009, Alan Feuer of the New York Times criticized the movement that grew out of the films' audience:
"They've Seen the Future and Dislike the Present"

"The mission of the movement is the application of the scientific method for social change," Mr. Joseph announced by way of introduction. The evening, which began at 7 with a two-hour critique of monetary economics, became by midnight a utopian presentation of a money-free and computer-driven vision of the future, a wholesale reimagination of civilization, as if Karl Marx and Carl Sagan had hired John Lennon from his "Imagine" days to do no less than redesign the underlying structures of planetary life.
You can see Joseph's first film here, and the second film here. A third film, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, is here.

Millennial Cults

Image Source: Rick Ross.

The Washington Post summarizes the rise of Millenarian cults up to the turn of the century here. According to Anton Wells, there are two types of Millennial cults - Catastrophic Millennialism and Progressive Millennialism:
Progressive: Optimistic view of human nature that became prevalent in the 19th century. Humans engaging in social work in harmony with the divine will can affect changes that non-catastrophically and progressively create the millennial kingdom.

Catastrophic: Involves a pessimistic view of humanity and society. We are so corrupt and sinful that the world as we know it must be destroyed and then created anew. This will be accomplished by God (or by superhuman agents such as extraterrestrials), perhaps with the assistance of human beings. The millennial kingdom will be created after the violent destruction of the old world. Surprising number of millennial groups involved in violence that has been in the news as 2000 approached.
  • 1992: Conflict between federal agents and the Weaver Family at Ruby Ridge.
  • 1995: Aum Shinrikyo releases nerve gas on Tokyo subway.
If you want to know about cults, follow Rick Ross, who has been battling them for decades. He has a page devoted to Millennial cults here.

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